The Fate of the 30-Foot Dragon

EAH Housing staff participating in the Dragon Ceremony (from left to right: Kirk Holto, Louise Li, Venus Jacobs, and Karen Belanger) in July 2007. Louise Li, Service Coordinator at Kukui Tower, was the project coordinator.

Local residents were given an opportunity to participate in creating a traditional dragon, working together to create a symbol that was culturally appropriate for the area. The dragon was made out of Styrofoam and chicken wire, and is covered with a waterproof cloth. Forty children from Chinatown and three artists, Karen Lucas, Maile Yawata, and Quala-Lynn Young, designed and created the statue. The skin of the dragon was painted by participants of First Friday in the Park.

A blessing ceremony for the dragon was held at Kukui Tower, 35 North Kukui Street, and included the opening of the dragon’s eyes. The Chinese do this by putting red dots on the eyes, which is meant to give life to the dragon. Chinese believe the dragon is a symbol of protection.

The 30-foot dragon statue stood guard at Nuuanu Avenue and North Kukui Street (Kukui Tower) to ward off evil spirits and give protection to the downtown community, part of an effort by residents to reclaim their neighborhood. The dragon was a collaborative effort involving the ARTS at Marks Garage, a project of the Hawaii Arts Alliance in conjunction with EAH Housing, the Weed and Seed program, and support from the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.

The dragon art piece was removed from the street corner in early October, then was exhibited at the ARTS at Marks Garage gallery in Chinatown for two weeks, and after the exhibition, was taken down on October 21st. “It is now in storage until a decision is made on where it possibly can be displayed again,” said Wiwik Bunjamin-Mau, Community Facilitator for Hawaii Arts Alliance.

“We’re in the middle of a discussion about where to put the dragon,” said Bunjamin-Mau. Possibilities include a different location entirely or back to Kukui Tower.